High cholesterol can lead to heart disease, and eating a healthy diet can lower your risk of having high cholesterol. While foods that are high in saturated fat may raise your cholesterol, those that are high in unsaturated fats, such as Brazil nuts, can help lower your cholesterol. However, there are other things to consider when deciding if you want to make Brazil nuts a part of your diet.
Because Brazil nuts are a plant-based food, they do not contain any cholesterol. They contain 20 grams of fat and 4 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fat can raise your cholesterol, but unsaturated fat has a cholesterol-lowering effect, and there is more unsaturated fat than saturated fat in a Brazil nut. A 1 oz. serving of Brazil nuts has 190 calories, 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. This serving also contains 20 percent of the daily value for thiamine, 15 percent of the daily value for magnesium and phosphorus, 10 percent of the daily value for zinc, 6 percent of the daily value for iron and calcium, 4 percent of the daily value for vitamin B6 and 2 percent of the daily value for niacin.
Eating a lot of selenium may increase your risk of having high LDL ("bad cholesterol"), and it can result in high overall cholesterol levels, according to a 2009 "Daily Mail" article by Jenny Hope. Brazil nuts are particularly high in selenium, so you don't want to consume large amounts of them. However, more research needs to be done to determine the overall effect of Brazil nuts on cholesterol, since they are also high in nutrients that may lower cholesterol.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the l-arginine, omega-3 fats, plant sterols, unsaturated fats, vitamin E and fiber found in these nuts all contribute to their heart-healthy benefits. Brazil nuts may also make your immune system stronger, and they can help to prevent cancer and heart disease.
Brazil nuts are high in calories due to the amount of fat that they contain, and these calories can add up very quickly. A one oz. serving is only six to eight nuts, so you don't want to eat too many of them at one time. If you consume a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, and just six nuts provides almost one-tenth of your calories.
The Mayo Clinic recommends replacing a snack high in saturated fat with a handful of nuts. They also note that adding nuts to your diet without replacing saturated fats won't help. Since Brazil nuts have a high saturated fat content, other nuts may be a better option, but Brazil nuts are still healthy in moderation.